• Mike Burke

Have you ever managed through a frustrating situation, and when it was over, you wished you handled it differently?

I did.

I was 26 years old and had just been promoted to warehouse manager.

I was so proud of myself because, for the first time, I had managers and supervisors report to me.

This facility had companywide highs in overtime and lows in productivity, and it was my job to correct both.

The Friday of my sixth week, I realized there was a multimillion theft ring going on, and no manager before me was willing to deal with it.

I did.

And at first, I was considered a hero by management.

Slowly, after all the terminations and suspensions of the management staff and employees, I became face of all the ugliness.

It was like everyone wanted to go back to how it used to be before the theft revelation.

I admit I started getting defensive and mad.

I felt like I put my neck on the line, and no one had my back.

Instead of skyrocketing my career, management decided I was too divisive of a figure and moved me to a lateral position.

It was humiliating.

I committed never again to be defined by a situation.

I was going to turn ever crisis I faced into an opportunity to enhance my career.

Over the next few years, I created a system that I now call the Atomic Management System.

It’s a list of steps I developed to face every challenge in front of me.

And it worked.

It got me promotion after promotion.

My system got put to the ultimate test when I oversaw a large division in Boston.

Union employees staffed the facilities warehouse people and delivery drivers.

For decades the relationship between management and union was bad.

This place was known as a management career killer.

After my sixth month anniversary in Boston, the union leadership decided they needed to go on strike.

The strike lasted six weeks.

When they walked back into the door, they were still angry.

A couple of them refused to look at me or shake my hand.

I was pissed and hurt from the brutal things they said and did.

To be honest, I was having trouble keeping my emotions in check.

But this time, I was committed not to let this situation define me like it did before.

Plus, I knew that if I were able to get the place up and running better than before, I’d be a hero in upper management’s eyes.

I decided I was going to use various parts of my Atomic System.

To get everyone to work toward a common goal, I focused on five steps within what I call the Team Resolution Formula.

Every morning I met with key employees, and together, we listed major problems.

Then we went through each of the five steps.

  1. What is our goal?

  2. What is currently happening

  3. What positive things will happen if we achieve our goal

  4. What’s keeping us from our goal

  5. Determine top cause(s), brainstorm solutions, follow up.

A lot of the employees that took grief from the strikers had not bought in, and you know they had a point.

Heated arguments broke out here and there.

But I couldn’t let anyone’s emotions (including my own) affect my goal of getting the place running.

I spent a lot of time one on one coaching.

After one month of using the Atomic Management System, we achieved our productivity goal.

In three months, for the first time, we were ranked in the company’s 1st quartile for productivity.

That’s something that I’m incredibly proud of today.

Oh, and six months later, I was given the responsibility to run two more divisions.

Dealing with and overcoming this potential career killing situation using the five steps within the Atomic System taught me that if you stay focused, composed, and work toward a vision, you can achieve anything.

And that’s what the Atomic Management System is all about!

©2020 by Mike Burke Management.